Outgoing president urges physicists to put more women forward for prizes

30 September 2015

The IOP’s outgoing president, Dr Frances Saunders, has highlighted the almost total absence of female physicists and members of other underrepresented groups among the winners of the Institute of Physics’ top awards.

Frances Saunders

In her final week in office, Saunders said: “Not only has there never been a female recipient of one of the IOP’s four Gold medals, no female physicist has ever been nominated to receive one of these most prestigious awards, and there has only been one female winner of the IOP’s highest accolade, the Isaac Newton Medal, since the annual award was established in 2008. However, I was delighted to be able to present the Holweck medal and prize recently to an eminent French female physicist, Professor Isabelle Ledoux-Rak.

“I am also concerned that physicists working in industry, or at the leading edge of applied research, do not always get the profile that they deserve through nominations for medals well matched to their area of expertise; we need more people from different backgrounds and work experiences engaged in this whole process of recognising excellent contributions to our discipline.”

The four Gold medals – the Dirac, the Faraday, the Glazebrook and the Swan – are among more than 16 awards for which the IOP is seeking nominations.

The IOP’s incoming president, Professor Roy Sambles, has also highlighted the underrepresentation of women in physics as an issue of concern in an interview that he gave as he prepares to move into the role on 1 October.

Saunders, who completes her two-year term as president on 30 September, said she had enjoyed her time in office. “It has been a very busy two years and it would be difficult to pick out a single highlight, but the impact that we have had in raising the girls in physics post-16 education agenda has been very important and a fitting tribute to the hard work of the education team over many years,” she said.

See full details of the awards, eligibility criteria and how to make a nomination.